Crew: The Unsung Heros of Theatre

I believe every actor should do some form of crewing at least once in their career. No one realizes just how hard and important of a job it is until they’ve done it themselves. I myself am currently crewing a show right now, though this is not my first time taking on a show from the wings.

I walked into this one thinking it’d be the easiest crew experience I’d ever had… If you’ve ever worked backstage before, you probably laughed at that last sentence (and rightly so). I joined the production about two weeks out from opening night, I was supposed to help a friend with a quick change and that was really it. The first rehearsal I walked into, I was asked to costume the show as the previous costumer had fell through. So now I’m doing the quick change I initially came to do and costuming the show in two weeks… no biggie, I can handle this.

Then we start talking about makeup and I get myself into doing that too. So now on show nights, I do some age makeup before the show, I handle the quick change between the scenes in act one, I do a lot more aging during intermission, and I do some SUPER fast aging between the scenes in act two (for clarity’s sake, each scene jumps a decade, so all of the actors age ten years between each scene). I also usher when we have no ushers signed up for the night.

And before I go any further, I should note that I’m not looking for any kind of praise for taking on all these tasks. This is not a paid position, it was all 100% choice and I could have said no, but I chose not to because I thrive on the chaos that is live theatre. I merely wanted to paint for you a picture of a standard night in crewing.

The point of this story is– crew people are jacks-of-all-trades. Because they have to be. Crew are the unsung heros of the world of theatre and it’s time we as actors start regularly singing their praise. If you don’t think crew are some of the most important people in a production, try a run without them; I guarantee you won’t make it out of the first act alive.

So next time a crew member isn’t there to hand you your prop, a set piece is missing, your mic cuts out, or you don’t even know what’s going on with the lighting, try not to get mad and berate the crew, because chances are that what happened was way less significant than what would have happened without them. Crew make countless split second decisions each night to keep the show moving without a hitch and sometimes those decisions come down to what is going to cause the least issues, because a flawless choice doesn’t exist.

Bottom line: Respect your crew. Appreciate your crew. Love your crew.

blog sign off
Break a leg,
-Brandi
find me on social media,
twitter: @bwaybrandi
Instagram: @sugarbutterbrandi
snapchat: broadwaybrandi
email: brandinyc525600@gmail.com

Now What?

You’ve just closed a show. You’re sad, you’re tired, and you’re bored out of your mind. You’ve gone from practically living in the theater to an abundance of free time. So how do you fill it?

Well, if you know what your next show is, start researching it and planning your audition material! Start making a decision on your top choice roles, find a song and/or a monologue or two to audition with, and think about characterization decisions you’ll make if you’re asked to read for a specific role.

See shows!! Support other community/school theatres.  Return the favor to all the friends that came to support you. You spent your time bringing joy, laugher, and tears to the eyes of your audience, so settle in and enjoy someone else doing all the work while you relax and take in a show.

Get ahead on projects for school or work that will get pushed right back onto the backburner as soon as you start your next show. Right that big paper, get that stack of paperwork off your desk, or just get more organized.

Hang out with your friends! Chances are they’ve heard the phrase, “I can’t, I have rehearsal,” more times than either of you can count; so take advantage of the extra time while you still have it.

Read. If you have a TBR pile like mine, you probably have books falling off your shelves… maybe you can knock a few off before your next show.

Take some time to relax. Shows are taxing physically and mentally, some take a heavier toll than others. It’s important to give yourself at least a couple days to decompress before you throw yourself into the next project. Take a bath, light your favorite candle, snuggle your pet, do whatever makes your heart feel cozy.

What is your favorite way to combat the post-show blues?

Until next time,

Break a leg,
-Brandi
find me on social media,
twitter: @bwaybrandi
Instagram: @sugarbutterbrandi
snapchat: broadwaybrandi
email: brandinyc525600@gmail.com

 

After the Last Bow

Yesterday we closed our production of Clue. I am exhausted, sore, and my throat is screaming… and yet I still find myself wishing I was in the dressing room as I type this.

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Even if your body is relieved about the break, your heart yearns for the preshow adrenaline rush, the backstage laughs and hugs, and that tingly feeling you get when you hear the cue line for your first entrance.

When you take your last bow, and as you head to the lobby to greet the audience for the last time, you see your castmates around you and realize that you’re about to go from seeing them for hours everyday to waiting around until you get to perform with them again. Even if you still get to see all your castmates everyday, say if you’re a part of a high school theatre group, it isn’t the same. Not to mention, saying goodbye to castmates that have become like family isn’t the only thing hard to say goodbye to.

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Saying goodbye to a show, a character you’ve become is hard too. For the duration of the show, you learn to give up yourself in order to transform into another person. When a show ends, it’s like a shock to the system when you’re back to being just, you. For most shows, you’ll never be in that show, playing that same role again. And even if you do get to replay a role, it won’t be at the same point in your life, with the same people, on the same stage– the whole dynamic will be different. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be as good, it just won’t be the same.

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After a show closes, your heart will hurt, your body will thank you, and soon you’ll start the process over again.

So tonight, this is Mrs. Peacock signing off.

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Break a leg,
-Brandi
find me on social media,
twitter: @bwaybrandi
Instagram: @sugarbutterbrandi
snapchat: broadwaybrandi
email: brandinyc525600@gmail.com

Tips for Memorizing a Script on a Time Crunch

Not all rehearsal processes are created equal… I  have been in shows that have a three and a half month rehearsal process and I have been in shows with a two and a half week rehearsal process. Needless to say, those two time frames offer very different options for learning your lines. As I procrastinate learning my lines for my current show a little further, I’ll share with you the tip and tricks I’ve used for past shows, and the ones I should probably use today…

  1. Read through the whole script when you get it… don’t just skim for the parts with your lines– This is important because it provides the entire context of the show. Some of your lines won’t make sense to you without knowing things that happen in scenes you aren’t in. Something that happens in a scene you aren’t a part of could have a big impact on your character later so it’s important that you understand the full context. Not only will your lines make more sense to you, but it will give you connections, which make them harder to forget.
  2. Always say the lines in your character voice– It will make a difference when you get off book if you’re suddenly changing how your saying them. I guarantee it will be harder to remember them if you have to focus on how your saying them, rather than having them memorized in the character voice.
  3. If lengthy monologues are kicking your butt– Read it through, out loud, read off the first sentence, say it without looking, then add a sentence or phrase and read through it again, repeating until you’ve said the whole thing, write it out while looking at it, write as much of it as you can without looking, recite as much as you can without looking, and repeat until it’s memorized!
  4. Write out all your lines and cue lines on notecards (yes, all of them.)– Write the cue on one side and your line on the back. Not only is the final product helpful to flip through when studying your lines (and it gives you a way to see your cue line without your line easily visible under it) but the actual act of writing out the lines will be helpful to learning it.
  5. Watch clips and videos (and the movie version if there is one.)– hearing other people say the lines and seeing different variations on how the character is played has always helped me learn my lines and make character decisions.
  6. Carry your script with you EVERYWHERE– If you have a spare moment at anytime, you should be pulling out your script to look over a scene or two. Always be looking for a quick break to look over your script.
  7. Look at it first and last– Make it the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you look at before you go to bed at night. This makes it prominent in your mind, as you’re more likely to be thinking about it throughout the day.

Happy line learning!

Break a leg,
-Brandi
find me on social media,
twitter: @bwaybrandi
Instagram: @sugarbutterbrandi
snapchat: broadwaybrandi
email: brandinyc525600@gmail.com

 

 

 

Having to Drop Out of a Show

Recently, I dealt with something I never considered having to deal with… I had to withdraw from a show. I never thought I’d be in a place where I’d be offered two great roles during essentially the same production time frame. I live in a small town, and when I was younger we were lucky to have the one, low budget children’s theatre that you had to pay to be a part of. I was involved with that group from the age of 5 or 6 until about 5th grade. Those were the only shows available to me until high school, where I performed in one musical each spring. Again, I had just one show a year to look forward to.

The summer after I graduated I was lucky enough to find a community theatre group with a summer teen show about 20 minutes from my hometown. I performed with them again this summer as well. My first year of college offered me two shows, one in the fall and one in the spring, both of which I had an absolute blast in. I also managed to student direct my first show during the time in between those two. Needless to say, I quickly went from one show a year to maybe a week or two between shows… sometimes less. It was quite an adjustment, but totally worth it! Looking back to a couple years ago, it’s crazy to me that I used to wait a whole year between shows, I much prefer a packed schedule that allows me to perform so much more.

Currently, I am in Clue as Mrs. Peacock. We were cast just under a month ago and as I write this, rehearsals start tomorrow! I was also recently offered a role in a dinner theatre show called Funeral for a Gangster with a theatre company that is starting up in my hometown. I’m so excited by the thought of finally having a community theatre up and running in my hometown again. I’ve wanted this for years and I love that so many people will now have a chance to experience live theatre again. Unfortunately, the dinner theatre runs during the rehearsal process for Clue, and since they are both such short projects, there was just no way for me to swing both.

Thankfully, Funeral for a Gangster, while with my hometown’s theatre company, is not actually taking place in my hometown. I am hoping that, once they get the theater opened back up, I will be able to perform in the first event to take place in our reopened theater.

I am so grateful to be in a place in my life where being offered a role can be a problem. Performing is the thing I love most so it is a comfort to know, that there is no shortage of shows I can be a part of. The only hard part is having to make decisions between shows.

I am extremely excited for Clue, and while I can’t be a part of Funeral for a Gangster, I’m so excited that it is bringing us one step closer to bringing my hometown theater back to life. I wish the absolute best for the cast of that production and I’m hopeful about working with them more in the future!

Break a leg,
-Brandi
find me on social media,
twitter: @bwaybrandi
Instagram: @sugarbutterbrandi
snapchat: broadwaybrandi
email: brandinyc525600@gmail.com

 

Clue!

Part of the wait is finally over! I recently found out that my next audition will be for the play adaptation of Clue. I’m very excited to take on this comedy where the audience will be able to vote on the ending each night. As of now I plan to be auditioning for Mrs. White and Mrs. Peacock. The next two weeks will consist of lots of audition prep and playing around with voices for all of the characters I could potentially be reading for. I’ll pick back up on this post either after auditions or when the cast list is posted!

Day one of auditions I dressed for Mrs. White– all black, very seductive, black widow type.

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As I write this portion of the post it is the second day of auditions. I had what I felt was a very good audition last night and I’ll be going in again tonight for another stab at it. There was a surprisingly large group that auditioned yesterday and I’m excited to see how many people show up tonight! Tonight I am dressed for my other top choice, Mrs. Peacock. Very opposite of Mrs. White, think a batty, church going senator’s wife. Next time I check back in, and probably wrap this post up will be whenever the cast list get posted! See you in the next paragraph, haha.

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I’m back and the list has been posted! I’ll be portraying Mrs. Peacock!! Based on what I saw at auditions and the people I’ve worked with before, this is a ridiculously talented cast and I can’t wait to get started! Rehearsals begin October 16th but we should have our scripts within the week. Good thing since we are supposed to be off book by the 22nd! These next few weeks will probably be a whirlwind of religiously watching the movie, the play on YouTube, and never letting my script out of my sight!

Break a leg,
-Brandi
find me on social media,
twitter: @bwaybrandi
Instagram: @sugarbutterbrandi
snapchat: broadwaybrandi
email: brandinyc525600@gmail.com

I Have a Theory…

I have a theory… theatre produces teachers. I have had this theory for quite some time and the more shows I see and work on, the more teachers I see onstage and listed in the playbill. I don’t think this is coincidental; in fact, it makes perfect sense to me.

In the most recent show I’ve seen (which was Sophie’s Light, as you may know if you’ve read my last post) I grabbed the playbill to count out for you how many teachers were in that show specifically. After reading the bios of 17 performers, I found that 5 were teachers or retired teachers, 1 was a principal, 1 was a coach, and 1 was a high school director. I should also note that 6 did not have a career listed, so it’s possible there were even more involved in schools. Even without the potential additional teachers, that means that about 30% of this cast were/are teachers and about 47% are professionally involved with schools in some way.

On a personal level, I’ve been involved with theatre since I was about 6 years old, and I am currently heading into my sophomore year of college in, you guessed it, the education program. Not only that but I’ve worked on shows with countless other teens who have already decided that teaching is where their heart lies. I’ve noticed that teaching always seems to outweigh any other profession in the bios of community theatre performers and I think that as I make the transition into working with adult companies that I will connect with many other teachers and soon-to-be teachers through the shows I do.

Why did I say that this makes perfect sense? Well, think about it; what are some of the skills or qualities every good teacher has? Great teachers are empathetic. The best performers truly feel the situations their characters are in; that allows them to give the most honest performance possible and is often why audience members are able to feel such a connection to those characters. Great teachers are creative. Performers by nature are artists, they construct people and worlds out of nothing. Great teachers are adaptable, they are able to tailor their lessons to work for all different kinds of students and change their entire plan when something puts off their lesson or they finish early. Performers have to be adaptable, they must constantly be evolving the way they portray a character to fit who they feel the character is and what the director wants from them. They also have to be able to improv well when things go wrong mid show. Great teachers are passionate. What artist is not passionate? Performers give their entire selves over to a character when they have been cast in a show, for the run of the production they lose themselves in becoming someone else. Beyond that performers and teachers alike often give of their own time and supplies to enhance their show or classroom. I can’t tell you how many performers I’ve seen, myself included, give up an afternoon to work on a set or run out to buy a costume piece or some makeup whether it be for themselves or a castmate. And, almost every teacher I have ever met has used their own money to provide items for their classroom. Great teachers are caring, they spend their days enhancing their students minds and getting to know their personalities. They go home with those kids on their hearts, hoping each one is fed, warm, loved, and reminded just how special they are. Performers are almost always willing to help out their castmates, whether that means bringing someone with a sore throat some tea and honey, staying late to run lines, or being a shoulder to cry on after a particularly stressful tech rehearsal.

For these and many other reasons, being a performer and a teacher seems like a match made in heaven. If you are a teacher/performer and you agree with me (or if you don’t) please share your experience with me in the comments!!

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Break a leg,
-Brandi

find me on social media,
twitter: @bwaybrandi
Instagram: @sugarbutterbrandi
snapchat: broadwaybrandi
email: brandinyc525600@gmail.com